You may be carrying additional passengers in your car, and not the kind that can get you access to the HOV lane.
Animal infestations are not just a problem for your basement or your attic. If you’re not careful, your vehicle could become a haven for critters, including mice, rats, squirrels, and even insects.
Ron Harrison, director of technical services for Orkin Pest Control, says animal infestations in cars are fairly uncommon. Even so, his company’s technicians are contacted about a problem with pests in a car at least once a month.
How do you even know if your car has an animal problem?
Harrison told Boston.com critters tend to make their presence known.
“The car might not start because a wire was gnawed on,’’ said Harrison. “Rodents urinate a lot so the smell would make it pretty obvious.’’
John Paul, manager of public affairs for AAA Southern New England, told Boston.com animals are normally attracted to the dry, warm areas of a car including the interior and the engine. Once they get inside a vehicle, they can wreak all kinds of havoc.
“Mice, rats, squirrels and raccoons can do thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to cars by eating wiring or destroying a car’s interior,’’ said Paul.
In some cases, an animal infestation can pose a public safety risk to motorists. For example, Mazda was forced to recall thousands of vehicles in 2014 because some itsy-bitsy spiders were crawling up vehicles’ fuel tank spouts. The spiders were weaving webs that blocked the airflow of the fuel tank hose and increased the risk of fire.
How do they get in there?
Paul said car owners who park their cars near sources of food are more likely to have animal problems.
“They are sometimes attracted to cars when they are parked close to birdfeeders and in garages where pet food and water may be located,’’ said Paul. “When people have this kind of problem the first thing I do is ask the person where they park and is there anything that will attract critters. If so, remove it.’’
Harrison outlined a number of ways unwanted animals and insects can “inadvertently’’ find their way into a car. For example, a cockroach could get into a grocery bag, or a bedbug could get into a suitcase that stayed in a hotel, or a pet with fleas could drop off some pesky passengers during a trip to the veterinarian.
How Do You Get Rid of Them?
Fortunately, Harrison says these unwanted guests will not be able to stay in a car very long if they don’t have everything they need to survive.
“[Pests] need optimal temperature and food,’’ said Harrison in a phone call. “Each pest is different, but most don’t do well in hot temperatures.’’
As the weather warms up, Harrison recommends parking an infested car in the sun and rolling the windows up to flush out unwanted guests. Prevention also goes a long way, he said.
“Clean your car regularly,’’ said Harrison. “Don’t let kids drop candy or food behind your car’s seats… Don’t give pests those opportunities.’’
Paul also recommends getting rid of any trash that may have accumulated in the car like discarded cereal, snacks, and fast food containers. After the car has been cleaned, Paul says the pest solution can be just as gross.
“Try some commercial repellant, usually a dry predator urine,’’ he said. A product called Shake-Away, made of dry animal urine granules, can be very effective. If that doesn’t work, more severe methods might be needed.
“If there is a mouse or a rat in the car, sometimes you will need to use a trap,’’ said Paul. “As a general rule if you see one, there are more.’’
Paul shared one account of an insect infestation that was particularly nauseating.
“I know of one person who spilled whole unpasteurized milk in a new minivan and let it sit for a week in Maryland heat and the car was infested with maggots,’’ said Paul in an email.
“Although the car was cleaned and the carpet replaced, the couple who owned the car were so grossed out they traded it for a new car,’’ Paul said.